Prevalence and validity of self-reported smoking in Indigenous and non-Indigenous young adults in the Australian Northern Territory

Mark S. Pearce, Kay D. Mann, Gurmeet Singh, Belinda Davison, Susan M. Sayers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)
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Background: In this study, we used data from Australia's Northern Territory to assess differences in self-reported smoking prevalence between the Indigenous and non-Indigenous populations. We also used urinary cotinine data to assess the validity of using self-reported smoking data in these populations. Methods. The Aboriginal Birth Cohort (ABC) is a prospective study of 686 Aboriginal babies born in Darwin 1987-90. The Top End Cohort (TEC) is a study of non-Indigenous adolescents, all born in Darwin 1987-91. In both studies, participants aged between 16 and 21 years, were asked whether they smoked. Urinary cotinine measurements were made from samples taken at the same visits. Results: Self-reported smoking prevalence was 68% in the ABC and 14% in the TEC. Among the self-reported non-smokers, the median cotinine levels were higher in the ABC (33 ng/ml) than in the TEC (5 ng/ml), with greater percentages of reported non-smokers in the under 50 ng/ml group in the TEC than in the ABC. Conclusions: Prevalence of smoking was much higher in the ABC than in the TEC. The higher cotinine levels in ABC non-smokers may reflect an underestimated prevalence, but is also likely to reflect higher levels of passive smoking. A broader approach encompassing social, cultural and language factors with increased attention to smoking socialisation factors is required.

Original languageEnglish
Article number861
Number of pages7
JournalBMC Public Health
Publication statusPublished - 21 Aug 2014
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

© 2014 Pearce et al.; licensee BioMed Central Ltd. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly credited. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated


  • Aboriginal Australians
  • Cigarette smoking
  • Cotinine
  • Passive smoking
  • Validation


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